Friday 20 August 2021

Star Trek: The Unsettling Stars - Alan Dean Foster

Title: The Unsettling Stars
Author: Alan Dean Foster
Published: 2020
Chronological Period: 2258

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In “The Unsettling Stars” Alan Dean Foster takes us back to the Kelvin Universe to a point in time soon after the events of the 2009 film with Captain Kirk and his crew dealing with their new responsibilities. The plot revolves around an encounter with a refugee ship from a previously unknown race known as the Perenoreans whom they rescue from an attack by three alien warships. Whilst Spock attempts to locate a potential planet for them to settle on the Enterprise crew soon finds the Perenoreans eager to help out in any way they can in order to repay them for their assistance. Once a potential system is located and agreement is reached with the species already living there the Perenoreans are just as eager to assist their new host species as they were the crew. But the Perenoreans’ determination to help their rescuers eventually leads to a conflict of cultures and a genuine threat to not only the Enterprise and their host planet’s culture, but to the entire Federation.

I was looking forward to this as I have always enjoyed the works of Alan Dean Foster, both his movie novelizations and his own original novels. I was also intrigued to see another novel in the Kelvin Universe, especially as I knew that this novel was one of many that were commissioned over a decade ago that I had never expected to see. Unfortunately, it ended up feeling just like a typical TOS styled novel. To be fair to Foster, he was limited in that outside of Kirk and Spock, there wasn’t really any real development of the other characters in the movie so the supporting crew feel a bit flat as Foster has clearly tried to stick within the limits of what was seen on the screen. It also didn’t really feel like it mattered if the plot was set in the Kelvin Universe or the Prime. Yes, we get a few throwbacks to what happened in the movie such as Vulcan being destroyed or how Kirk deals with being thrust into a Captain’s role so quickly but I don’t really think it added anything to make this feel that different from  what we see in Prime Universe novels.

I would like to add though that some of the basic premises of the novel were quite interesting. The use of a non-violent alien threat and the idea of slavery through advanced technology in particular had me intrigued and showed why the Prime Directive is such as important aspect of the Federation. I also appreciated that this novel was much more of a cerebral adventure that most of the onscreen events seen in the Kelvin Universe but maybe this was in part why it didn’t feel like it was particularly important that the plot was set in that Universe.

Overall, this was a reasonable Trek novel and Foster is still a competent and decent writer, but it just didn’t feel like it was anything special. I also don’t feel that it really mattered that this novel was set in the Kelvin Universe which is a shame but maybe I am looking for something that doesn’t exist. In the end, the Trek characters whilst shaped slightly differently by what happened in the Kelvin Universe are still fundamentally going to end up being similar on some level to how they turned out in the Prime Universe.

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